We've spent most of the weekend outdoors enjoying the warm bright autumn weather. No, not in the garden, but in the Surrey Hills of South East England, where we wandered through lovely woodland, catching a glimpse of a small wild deer on our way, to spend Saturday night at Tanners Hatch youth hostel with friends from Making Colliers Wood Happy.
Along the lane from the railway station, hedgerows were full of fruit; blackberries, rosehips, red honeysuckle berries and elderberries (even though many, it seemed, had been recently pruned). As we walked through the fields, we spotted a buzzard lazily circling, a pair of herons flew past, and a small flock of goldfinches.
The hostel is just across the valley from Polesden Lacey, a large 18th century house owned by the National Trust, so in under half an hour we were able to walk up this morning and enjoy a lazy lunchtime picnic on the sunny lawns. They have a new farm shop, so we made our own picnic with fresh bread and deli treats, as the restaurant was very busy with the usual Sunday lunchtime trade, and none of us wanted to be indoors queueing.
The house is set into the hillside, surrounded by landscaped terraced lawns, a walled garden, some less formal meadows, and overlooking a peaceful view of the wooded countryside. there are two croquet pitches laid out on one of the lawns. A game was irresistible; we all enjoyed a couple of rounds in the gorgeous sunshine, although none had a firm grasp of the rules.
As the third round began, I took the opportunity to explore the walled garden. A lovely mixed border along the outside, but what lay within?
I found series of separate small gardens devoted to different plants and layouts, with tall yew hedges dividing them. My first discovery was an historic collection of bearded irises, not that any were in flower, but naturally the beds were neatly laid out and I imagine it will look wonderful from spring next year.
The rose garden was also very striking; the scent was delicious - almost overwhelming - and the beds are planted up with single varieties, great blocks of colour which look absolutely wonderful.
I suppose no autumn posting would be complete without at least one chrysanthemum; in the corner of the rose garden there was a whole bed of them, acid yellows, bright scarlets, oranges and apricots and some dark pinks scattered among them. But they looked garish, rather than colourful, in my picture; so here's a single quite delicious bloom from a quieter bed!
As we started home along the Yew Walk (also a lawn) which constitutes the lowest boundary of Polesden Lacey's gardens, we noticed holly trees heavily laden with fruit, by tradition a sign of a hard winter coming. But there will be plenty here for the birds to eat, with the yew trees also thickly covered in small soft red jewels.
It's still possible to make a donation to WaterAid in support of Sing for Water 2009. And you can now see our performance on Youtube, where there are two ten minute videos of the 650 strong choir which came together from across the UK to the Scoop in London for this special event.